El niño prodigio is giving me southern discomfort

BOY WONDER IS LEARNING SPANISH. On Saturday mornings, I now take him to the local Little Fidget class for under-5s. The teacher uses a magical kingdom theme, with cuddly creatures and fantastic scenarios to engage the kids. So far, we’ve met the wolf (lobo), rat (ratón) and dragon (dragón).

Boy Wonder seems to enjoy it, although his motives are a little suspect. The final act of the class each week involves the kids assembling at the front for a snack while they learn basic Spanish table manners. He seems to pay particular attention to those instructions above all others.

I learnt French at school but attended a weekly lunchtime Spanish class for about a year when I lived in London 10 years ago. So, I’m enjoying this gentle refresher. However, the teacher is Venezuelan, so I need to adjust my learned Spanish accent so I don’t confuse my son. She says gracias, I say grathias. She uses a ‘j’ for a double ‘ll’, I use a ‘y’. We haven’t learnt the word for tomatoes yet.

Competing accents

Then again, there are competing accents at home. The Duchess is from Hertfordshire so I knew what I was letting myself in for. But I thought settling in Leeds would mean our kids would enjoy the privilege of a down-to-earth northern accent.

The problem is that the Duchess spends the most time with the kids and, as a result, Boy Wonder is frequently classed by strangers as ‘a bit posh’ because of his rounded vowels and sing-song intonation.

As part of the fightback, I find myself practically ironing my vowels flat when I read him bedtime stories, presenting almost a caricature of my fairly soft Teesside accent.

People tell me it’ll all come right when he starts school full-time and apes his mates. Knowing me, I’ll then probably try to smarten up his diction, chiding him to speak ‘more nicely’ while ignoring my own ‘owt/nowt’ speech. Poor kid. (That’s poo-er, not pour, by the way.)


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